The Truth about the movie “Hurricane”
Rubin "Hurricane" Carter with Denzel Washington at the 2000 Golden Globe Awards.
In 1999, “The Hurricane”, a film about the life of Carter was released, starring Denzel Washington. The movie’s producer, Norman Jewison, based the movie largely on two books: Carter’s 1974 autobiography, “The 16th Round,” and the 1991 approved biography of his life written by Chaiton and Swinton titled “ Lazarus and the Hurricane: The Untold Story of the Freeing of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter.”
The movie portrays Carter as a man with near saintly integrity and character. Nothing could be further from the truth. The movie has many errors and omissions in it. Probably the greatest distortion and smear job was on Detective DeSimone, whose name in the movie was Vincent Della Pesca.
Movie Lie - Della Pesca is a racist detective who has hounded Carter since childhood and has framed Carter for the murders.
Truth - DeSimone may have interrogated Carter once when he was younger, but it is an absolute lie that DeSimone hounded Carter since childhood. When Carter was picked up by police 30 minutes after the murders, DeSimone was home in bed. Vincent DeSimone was a decorated WWII hero who was severely wounded when shot in the face in Europe. He lived by “the Good Book” the Bible and once said, “I couldn’t live with myself if I knew I was responsible for a man spending one night in jail for a crime he didn’t commit.”(1) After Bob Dylan’s ballad supporting Rubin Carter came out, DeSimone commented, “People aren’t interested in the facts. They just want a cause.”
Movie Lie - In the opening scenes Carter is shown soundly defeating a blood spattered Joey Giardello in the 1964 title fight but the bigoted white judges give the victory to Giardello anyway.
Truth - Giardello clearly won the REAL fight in a unanimous decision.(2) Giardello suffered only a small cut in the middle rounds. After the film’s release, Giardello filed a federal lawsuit against the filmmakers for libel. Giardello was supported by many boxing figures, including Robert Polis, who refereed the real fight, scoring it 72-66 for Giardello.(3) The case was settled before trial(4) with the producers reportedly paying Giardello $300,000. Television announcer Les Keiter, who narrated the real fight, said Joey Giardello was a clearcut winner.(5)
Movie Lie - The movie depicts Carter defending his friend from a white child molester, then stabbing the man as he dangles him near the edge of a cliff.
Truth - There is zero evidence to support this claim. We have to take Carter’s word for it.
Movie Lie - The movie scene outside the bar after the shootings gives many false impressions - (A) poor lighting, (B) wrong model car, (C) wrong parking spot, (D) wrong position for Al Bello. Movie has Bello in a gas station across the street. At this distance, coupled with poor lighting Bello couldn’t have really seen anything.
Truth - (A) There were 2 bright street lights at this intersection, but apparently were turned off for the movie, (B) the movie used a Dodge Monaco instead of a Polara, which Carter used, (C) Carter double parked his car about 30 feet down Lafayette street, (D) Bello was on Lafayette St when Carter and Artis were going to their car. Bello was within 15 feet of Carter when he turned and ran.
Movie Lie - The other witness to see the suspects flee was Pat Valentine, who lived above the bar. Movie has (A) the intersection very dark, (B) has signs cluttering her view, (C) has the car heading south, (D) has Valentine looking out the wrong window.
Truth - (A) the intersection had 2 bright street lights, (B) There was no sign clutter out of the window she looked through, (C) Carter headed west, (D) Valentine looked out the window facing Lafayette Street.
Movie Lie - The killers escape in a dodge Monaco while Carter drives a Dodge Polara. The movie wants you to believe that the two key witnesses who saw the getaway car saw a Monaco - not Carter’s Polara - and identified the wrong car. The witness also noted the car had out of state plates. Carter’s car had New York plates.
Truth - There is a huge difference in the taillight set up between a Monaco and Polara. Carter’s Polara had two rectangular lights on the very outside of each side. The lights on a Monaco go far into the center of the car’s rear. Both eyewitnesses identified a Polara - Carter’s car.
Movie Lie - The cops pull Carter and Artis over for DWB - driving while black. The famous sarcasm by the movie cop “Any two will do” give the impression the cops where looking for any white car with two blacks in it. The movie creates the impression that they were far from the crime scene when arrested.
Truth - Carter and Artis were stoped twice by police shortly after the murders. The first time was 14 blocks from the murder scene but police let them go. When the same officers got a detailed description of the getaway car, they realized it was the same car they had just stoped and let go. The two officers went back on patrol and found Carter’s car again.
Movie Lie - The surviving shooting victim, Willie Marins, shakes his head “no”, indicating that Carter & Artis are NOT the killers.
Truth - Marins really told police “I can’t tell. I don’t know” Marins had been in the bar for over 4 hours and only got a glimpse of the shooters.
Movie Lie - The film shows Carter refusing to come out of his cell during an inspection. He tells a compassionate sergeant he’s afraid that someone might steal the manuscript of the book he was writing.
Truth - A former prison guard, Tom Blaszczyk, knew Carter for 18 months at Trenton prison: “If a guy refused to come out of his cell for an inspection and a search for contraband, there is no way they are going to call a sergeant to come and gently talk him out. That guy is going to come out one way or another. They would have Maced him and taken him out. You can’t have that kind of breakdown of authority and have 50 other guys on the tier see that. You have to live and work there every day. It would have been disaster.”
Movie Lie - Carter refuses to give up his civilian clothes for a prison uniform
Truth - Former guard Tom Blaszczyk said, “He never would have gotten out of county jail without prison-issue clothes. Everyone knows that’s not prison procedure. The fact is, no one had to wear prison clothing. When they first came in, everyone was quarantined in prison-issue clothing. Once they got into the general population, they could wear their own clothes.”
Movie Lie - Nearly all the prison guards in the movie were white.
Truth - Tom Blaszczyk states “Most inmates were black and Hispanic, so were the officers, including sergeants, lieutenants and assistant wardens.”
Movie Lie - In the second trial, the prosecution used “racial revenge” as the motive and a black women named Louise Cockersham says “Why would racial revenge be inflicted on a bar that was friendly to blacks?”
Truth - The bar did not serve blacks. The real Cockershams had to pay for their drinks and take them out the back door. The Lafayette Grill was near a black area and the only white bar open in the immediate vicinity when the murders occurred.
The facts are overwhelming that racial revenge WAS the only motive, as no money was taken. Former prison guard Blaszczyk states that Carter was very detached from most people. He asked a trustee-runner named Frank Darby, also black, what was up with Carter. Darby told Blaszczyk that Carter “just doesn’t like white guys.”
Movie Lie - The film show Carter in his Army uniform with numerous medals, leaving the impression Carter was a good soldier.
Truth - Carter was court martialled 4 times and booted out of the Army early. Carter never received any medals.
3.The Italian Stallions: Heroes of Boxing's Glory Days, by Stephen Brunt. Sport Classic Books. Pub 2003, p 213
7. New York Times, Jersey edition Novembeer 16, 1976
8. Lancaster, PA Sunday News, Feb. 13, 2000